3 Ways to Get an Optimal DRTV and Video Mix

How can direct response marketers balance TV and online video?

Many marketers take a simplistic approach to balancing their direct response television (DRTV) and online video advertising—an approach that can create unbalanced and poor results. Typically, they subscribe to two guiding principles:

  • Approximately 5 to 10% of their DRTV budget is devoted to online video based on current video viewing trends
  • Repurposing effective TV spots for online use is an easy, cost-effective way to fill the 5 to 10% online video slots

Both of these principles are valid, generally speaking. Unfortunately, the specific situations direct marketers face can invalidate them. Offer types, target markets, previous results from TV-only buys and other factors can and should be considered before relying on any type of television/online video formula.

In fact, the best formula for finding the proper balance is the one that guides every DRTV advertiser: core measurements. The real guiding principle for balance should be testing and measuring. You may discover that you achieve the best results when you load up on specific cable station buys at certain times, and that the online video strategy only works on pre-roll video that runs on one particular site. Or, conversely, you may find out that you obtain outstanding results from the two-minute spots you run in an online banner ad and that you should be shifting more of your dollars in that direction.

Similarly, you may learn that reducing your highly effective two-minute DRTV spot to 30 seconds for use in pre-roll video renders it ineffective. It may take a bit of testing and measuring before you figure out that you need to create a dedicated video spot for online video; or that you can use your existing spot but have to test different versions before you determine which one is best suited for digital purposes. The balance between television and online video is delicate rather than predetermined, and it takes time and testing to get it right.

Beyond this overarching rule, here are some recommendations that we’ve found to be useful in finding the optimum mix of television and online video:

Seek the balance within the balance. This may sound Zen-like, but what I’m suggesting is that you have to dig deeper than balancing television and online video. Within television, myriad options exist in terms of spot lengths, creative execution, types of channels, types of programming, times of day, and frequency. Within online video, the choices are even more numerous: pre-roll video versus banner, matching the video spot to the site, and choosing interactive options such as ad-selectors, expandable units, and overlays. Rely on experts who are experienced in all these options to help you test and select what works best in each medium.

Make sure to retain the call-to-action element in online video. When marketers attempt to transition a television spot to online video, this element can be lost. Sometimes, they take a two-minute DRTV spot and chop it to fit the 15-second or 30-second pre-roll video requirement and edit out the call-to-action. Other times, they create an original spot for online video that lacks this motivational element. Even veteran DRTV advertisers can make these mistakes. Learning how to create effective 30-second spots that motivate consumers to click is a relatively new art, and if this art isn’t mastered, marketers will forsake online video because results are poor. They’ll create an imbalance because they don’t recognize their online spots lack a strong call-to-action.

Factor the target audience into your balancing strategy. Let’s say you’re going after a narrow demographic: men between the ages of 55 and 66 who exercise regularly and live in cold-weather states. Though cable’s growing diversity has helped direct response advertisers target with precision, online video is even more granular. You can buy data sets that allow you to place online video and find just the right match between your offer and a given site’s audience. Conversely, if your target market is large and undifferentiated, then focusing most of your media dollars on TV may make sense.

All of these recommendations come with my earlier caveat: Testing and measurement should be the ultimate guides. If you’ve been running all your DRTV advertising on a single cable station and only during weekend afternoons, you may have an unbalanced approach. But if your cost-per-order is extremely low and your results are extremely high, who cares?

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t in this position, so we need to keep experimenting with different TV and online video creative and media strategies, measure the results, and shift the balance accordingly. Then repeat.


Bill McCabe, A. Eicoff & Company

Bill McCabe is president and CEO of A. Eicoff & Company, a DRTV agency he has called home for the past quarter century. The Illinois resident began his career in Eicoff’s media department, served as SVP of business development for seven years, and as COO for two-and-a-half years before being named to his current position about three years ago. He can say that he was pivotal in building the agency into what it is today by bringing in powerhouse clients, embracing innovation, and sticking to core values. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign grad says that keeping the momentum going in a what-have-you-done- for-me-lately industry is one of the biggest challenges he faces. When it comes to picking which local baseball team to root for—the Cubs or the White Sox—McCabe says it’s an easy decision: “The one who has won a World Series in the past 100 years.”

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